When I asked a friend what he had in mind for a night on the town recently, his reply was a text message listing gig after gig around town. We needed Jazz Fest-style schedule cubes just to understand all of our options, I joked, and maybe a futuristic teleporter to make it from spot to spot.
It was an incredible list – an alt rock CD release party over here, a standing traditional jazz gig over there, a visiting blues guitarist, a young Cajun band and at least a half-dozen more choices of note all in between – but it really wasn’t all that unusual. It’s not quite officially fall yet, but the energies of New Orleans are stirring again, and the local music calendars are getting back to their robust best.
You don’t even need to wait until the weekend to get into it. Consider, for example, some of the shows on my radar for the next few days:
The Latin-tinged roots rock band the Iguanas are the main act at tonight’s edition of Harvest the Music, the free, outdoor concert series held each Wednesday in the fall downtown in Lafayette Square. Los Po-boy-citos open the show, which starts at the early banker’s-hours-happy-hour slot of 5 p.m. The whole Harvest the Music schedule looks pretty great, and in particular it’s worth marking your calendar for next week’s free visitation from Dr. John along with Jon Cleary.
Harvest the Music wraps around 7:30 p.m., which is just in time to catch Tom McDermott, the piano virtuoso, at Chickie Wah Wah (2828 Canal St., 504-304-4717), or the Tin Men, confidently billed as “the world’s premiere washboard-sousaphone-guitar trio” at dba (618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731). I’m happy to report that both of these fine venues are smoke-free.
The following day, there’s a chance to see two of the three members of the Tin Men doing their own things at separate downtown gigs. Washboard Chaz joins the rest of his Texas swing partners in Washboard Rodeo back at dba at 10 p.m., while right around the same time Tin Men front man Alex McMurray does an acoustic solo set at the incomparably atmospheric Saturn Bar (3067 St. Claude Ave., 504-949-7532).
A bit earlier, another outdoor music event starts up at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, that gorgeous urban oasis in City Park which hosts its Thursdays at Twilight concert series. This week features traditional jazz clarinetist Tim Laughlin. Admission is $10, the show goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and there’s a cash bar and food for sale in the gardens.
For something completely different, the enthralling, occasionally creepy country Americana of My Graveyard Jaw will be at the Den (907 S. Peters St., 504-529-5844), the smaller venue attached to the Howlin’ Wolf. Crooks opens the show, which starts at 10 p.m.
Guitar goddess Kristin Diable, who was the subject of an extensive profile by Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera last week, will start off Saturday with an early, 6 p.m. set at the Three Muses (536 Frenchmen St., 504-252-4801). This is a small, very cool restaurant/bar/music club on Frenchmen Street that is probably the most intimate venue you’ll find Kristin Diable playing these days as her star keeps rising.
Down the street, back at dba, you can catch a star of a whole different stripe when sissy bounce rapper and hipster favorite Katey Red gets the place moving around 10 p.m. D.J. Quickie Mart shares the bill.
And way upriver, Gal Holiday brings her Honky Tonk Revue to perhaps the most appropriate local venue for any honky tonk revue, the River Shack Tavern (3449 River Road, Jefferson, 834-4938). It’s just over the parish line from the Riverbend, but this joint feels like it could be out of some country music video of dusty parking lots, cold long necks and sassy girl singers, which is just what you’ll find when Gal Holiday has the mic.
This is of course just a highly selective slice of what’s happening this week for music. Plan your time wisely, people. We are surrounded by greatness.